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Beaches and Sand Science Projects

Combine fun in the sand with hands-on science experiments and activities to learn more about beaches, sand, and preventing ocean pollution.

Sandcastle on beach for Beach and Sand Science Experiments

STEM Experiments to Learn More About Beaches and Sand

Heading to a local beach can be lots of fun. Whether you enjoy walking on the firm sand by the water's edge or playing in softer sand, beaches have plenty of sand to go around. But where does sand come from? What happens to sand when the tides move in and out? How do coastlines change over time? What's the best way to build a sandcastle? Explore these questions and more with the STEM lessons, activities, and experiments below.

Fun in the Sand with Science Experiments

  1. 1. Build a Sandcastle

    Can you build a sandcastle that can support the weight of a brick without collapsing? In the Build a Sandcastle That Can Support a Brick activity, students experiment with adding layers of grass or seaweed when building a sandcastle. Why does this make the sandcastle stronger? (Note: Students doing a science fair project can use the related How Much Weight Can Your Sandcastle Hold? project.)

  2. 2. Wet Sand Effect

    What happens when you walk across sand near the water's edge? Where does the water go? In the Explore the Wet Sand Effect activity, students investigate to find out why footsteps in wet sand look dry!

  3. 3. Where Does Sand Come From?

    Beaches are covered with sand, billions of grains of sand. But where does sand come from? In the Weathering: Where Does Sand Come From? video lesson, students learn about "weathering" and how this process smoothes the edges of rocks and boulders and relates to sinkholes and caves. Using sugar cubes, students experiment to see how weathering and sand are related.

    Sugar cubes and piles of granules - Weathering video lesson to explore the process of weathering and how it relates to sand

  4. 4. Building Beaches

    In the Building Beaches activity, students model a beach using a small tray filled with sand and water and investigate erosion and how beach formations like headlands appear.

    Sand in a painter's tray with a pile of gravel in the middle forming a headland

Exploring Ocean Litter & Pollution

Reducing or preventing litter and trash that enters drainage systems and makes its way into waterways is an important environmental science issue. Little bits of litter add up to a potentially huge environmental and ocean science problem. In the North Pacific Ocean, for example, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of debris with an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers (twice the size of Texas). With science and engineering projects, students can learn more about these issues, investigate causes, and work on the development of improved strategies and systems for reducing and removing litter to help preserve clean beaches and marine habitats.

  1. 5. Trash Assessment

    In the Rapid Trash Assessment lesson, students focus on a local outdoor environment, learn a method for assessing litter, and design solutions for reducing the litter that ends up in waterways.

    Picture of a beach covered in trash and litter

  2. 6. Preventing Pollution of Waterways

    In the Do Your Storm Drains Keep the Ocean Trash Free? science project, students investigate local storm drains to see how effective they are at stopping litter from entering the drainage system and making its way to waterways. Students use their findings to design new or improved drains to help reduce the amount of litter that passes through.

    Storm drain on a street with water flowing and litter sitting on top of the drain
    Image: MPCA Photos, Flickr

Making Connections

The science and engineering explorations in this STEM resource are related to various calendar observances during the year. Bookmark the STEM Calendar to make connections in science class all year long!


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